1. The Nice Guys – The only way The Nice Guys wasn’t going to disappoint me was if Ryan Gosling had reached out of the screen and handed me a shrimp melt.
He didn’t. And yet, The Nice Guys is still a good movie. It’s just not what other people are telling you it is (or were at the time anyway, they don’t seem to bringing it up very often in 2016 roundups.) And it’s a shame for more reasons than just I didn’t get a great open faced cheesy seafood sandwich handed to me by a great actor. It was also one of the very few major release, non-animated, original comedies of 2016. I say very few because there must have been some but I can only think of Neighbors 2, which, as a sequel, doesn’t even count.
Shane Black employs most of his usual but fool proof tricks and it’s not as though I’m in any way tired of them. There’s not a bad performance to be found. There are weird bad guys. There are kids in actual danger. There’s even Christmas, although far more subtly than is typical for his movies. They just all feel like individual characteristics rather than fluid parts of a whole. Making The Nice Guys a perfectly agreeable thing to behold. But Shane Black usually gives us more than that. Like, shrimp melt more.
Oh! I thought of one: Dirty Grandpa! Which you’d say doesn’t count because it wasn’t funny, but I’m sorry, that wasn’t ever a part of the criteria.
2. Ghostbusters – As a white American male, I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion on this movie (or anything) when it was released. But it’s a new country now and all the rules have been rescinded. Or maybe the old rules are back? Whatever it is, I know I can finally say bad things about the all female remake of Ghostbusters.
Unfortunately, it won’t have anything to do with the female cast. That would have been pretty satisfying.
Paul Feig does the same things wrong every time, letting his actors play around and then not deleting that footage or at least quarantining it within the confines of end credit outtake sequences. So its not at all surprising how off the rails the comedy attempts in Ghostbusters go. But usually he has a cohesive story happening around these painful interludes.
It’s not all bad, of course. The opening is great and Leslie Jones was shockingly not yelling everything. Kate McKinnon is funny, if not quite as much as this movie’s champions would have us believe. But both Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig are muted versions of themselves. Their entire feud/friendship story goes away for basically the entire run time only to get a line or two after the hapless and mystifying battle scene.
Worst of all might be its nostalgia for Ghostbusting gone by. The cameos are mostly worthless, and the plot follows the original sequel in all the worst ways. 2016’s documentary Ghostheads makes an accidental revelation that may be the most illuminating reason any gendered reboot of Ghostbusters could never work. In it, Dan Aykroyd explains where the idea came from, namely his own family’s devoted interest in the occult. It came from a personal place, as outlandish as it became. And you can’t recreate that, no matter what gender you are.
3. The Magnificent Seven – Maybe this is the one they should have remade with an all female cast.
As it stands it is a complete waste of Denzel Washington, who does essentially nothing until the last few minutes when he beats a sickly Peter Saarsgard, which wouldn’t have been an interesting fight on his best day. It is a waste of nearly everyone else around him too, as such ensembles tend to go, I guess. But when you have a blueprint for it (two of them, in fact) there’s really no excuse. When you add in the attempt to diversify the cast that then gets ignored, then it’s just silly.
The action of the last third or so is extensive and mostly unrelenting, but there’s nothing visceral or surprising about any of it. And not just because we’ve seen it (twice!) before.
4. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – You’re probably wrong about the first Jack Reacher movie. This one is what you say about that one. Boring, overly serious and not even good at the basic thing it needs to be: its action.
Christopher McQuarrie’s fantastically efficient car chase and climactic shootout this time give way to Edward Zwick’s barely competent machismo and 50s TV action choreography. Werner Herzog’s Zec was bizarre and threatening; Robert Knepper is barely present and interchangeable. And for all the unnecessary hate Jai Courtney has received throughout his brief and hardly impactful career, he certainly had more charisma than the banal lout that takes his place in Never Go Back. Holt McCallany should have been a formidable opponent and his casting as a disposable lower level boss is strange.
I’ve since read a few Jack Reacher novels (though not any upon which either movie was based) and they’re not great, as you might expect. But they do not make Reacher out to be an indestructible straight faced juggernaut who only has dumb strained lines to say to people.
5. The BFG – Steven Spielberg hasn’t been a given for great or even good the past ten years or so, but I couldn’t ever suspect there wouldn’t be one not awful thing about anything he ever touched.
So about two thirds of way through The BFG, with a wedding to get to and nothing at all redeeming having happened yet, I started thinking about walking out. This might sound like a perfectly reasonable idea to you, especially if it was your wedding. But The BFG is a Steven Spielberg movie. I’m not going to run down all the movies he’s made that should illustrate how impossible that should seem. I don’t have to run down any such list. You know it. Without even looking it up, you know it. You might not even care about movies and you know it (although in that case, I don’t know how you got here and thank you.)
But I didn’t walk out. And that’s when it got worse. Steven Spielberg rewarded my loyalty by turning his already putrid kids movie into a literal fart festival. Suffice it to say, you have your reasons why 2016 was the worst. I have mine.
X-Men: Apocalypse – It was always going to be down hill after Days Of Future Past, but I don’t think any of us could have imagined it would be more of a sheer cliff.
Queen Of Katwe – Seems like everyone was disappointed by this because it really felt like it was going to be a classic, at least in the Disney sports movie section.
Hail, Caesar! – Coen Brother whimsy should be what we all aspire to in everything we do. So when this falls flat it’s like saying we’ve all be doing everything wrong forever.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – Hours before seeing this, I actually suggested to someone that Ang Lee could maybe win Best Director. I should be committed for this.
Miles Ahead – In the history of cinema, if you’ve spent a decade trying to get a movie made, rarely has it ever been a triumph to actually get it done.